Peterson’s thoughts on prayer and scripture

Posted: March 16, 2012 by efenster in Ideas

What are Eugene Peterson’s views on prayer and the scripture?  Here are some comments he made at a recent event held in New York City that I was fortunate enough to attend.  — Ed Fenstermacher


Prayer is the pastor’s most important task.  Pray has its origin in the movement of God toward us.  God always makes the first move.  Prayer is our response to God’s action.  You’re not in charge of prayer; the Holy Trinity is.

We try to figure out prayer too much.  When someone asked Peterson how they could learn to pray, he told them to attend worship the following week.  When they asked what to do after that, he said to attend worship the week after that.  There’s no need to hold a class on prayer.  Prayer is seldom learned in the classroom but rather through relationships.  And a person doesn’t even need to lead in prayer; in worship, the congregation can do the praying for them.  This response takes a great deal of guilt off people. 


Our job is to bring our friends and our stories into the story of the Bible.  Not the other way around.  We can’t understand the Gospels simply using our heads.  We need to engage in the story.  You can’t read the Bible by yourself.  You read it with God.  If you have a question, ask God, talk with your pastor and your friends. 

Half of the Bible is poetry, much of it is metaphor.  When chapter and verse notations were added to the Bible, it turned it into a reference book.  When the Bible was distributed in print, rather than orally, it caused our faith to become more individualistic; we lost a sense of biblical community.  

He says he felt as though he was born to paraphrase the Bible.  It took him 12 years to complete The Message; he wrote five pages a day.  When asked what version of the Bible he reads, he said normally he’s reading in the orginal text.  Every now and then he’ll read from The Message.    He said that afterwards he’ll stop and ask God where those words came from.  And, with a twinkle in his eyes, he said, “They’re actually pretty good!”

  1. David Neckers says:

    I have always wondered about prayer requests. Pick any Christian meeting, and the question is asked, “Are there any prayer requests?” This person and then the next expounds on a need, or someone they know needs guidance, or healing, or whatever. Then, someone is asked to pray, and the prayer includes each request mentioned. I wonder, wasn’t God listening the first time?

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